May 10th, 2011
12:50 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Expect to hear some sonnets and iambic pentameter out of the White House Wednesday, as President and Mrs. Obama host “a celebration of American poetry and prose.”
The first couple will welcome poets, musicians, and artists who will “read, sing and showcase the impact of poetry on American culture.”
Participants invited include poet Elizabeth Alexander, who composed and delivered “Praise Song for the Day” at Obama’s inauguration, former U.S. poet laureates Billy Collins and Rita Dove, Chicago hip hop artist and actor Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. aka “Common,” poet and conceptual artist Kenneth Goldsmith, visual and performance artist Alison Knowles, and singer songwriters Aimee Mann and Jill Scott.
Also in the playbill is actor and funnyman Steve Martin, an accomplished banjo player, performing along with the bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers.
Michelle Obama will stress the importance of arts education in the nation’s schools at an afternoon workshop with students from across the country, and President Obama will make brief remarks before the evening ceremony.
Perhaps the ‘Poet-in-Chief’ will read some of his own works. According to the Library of Congress, when he was a student at Occidental College, Obama published two poems in a college literary publication, one called “Pop” and the other entitled “Underground.”
Read both poems HERE.
Harold Bloom, a professor of Humanities and English at Yale University, said of Obama’s work in a New Yorker article, “If I had been shown these poems by one of my undergraduates and asked, ‘Shall I go on with it?’, I would have rubbed my forehead and said, ‘On the whole, my dear, probably not. Your future is not as a person of letters.’”
The event is part of the ongoing White House Music Series, which kicked off in 2009. Other genres celebrated at the White House include Jazz, Country Music, Classical Music, Motown, a Fiesta Latina, a salute to Broadway, Music of the Civil Rights Movement, and a dance tribute to Judith Jamison.